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Red Sox 7, Yankees 4: Jacoby Ellsbury's Third Homer Of The Day Saves Red Sox' Wild Card Lead

Red Sox 7, Yankees 4

It started with the worst possible omen. A long hit from Mark Teixeira to the wall off of John Lackey that scored two runs, and then a third as a throw from Jason Varitek sailed high and into left field to let the Yankees' first baseman come home.

And from there...everything changed. The Yankees would muster just two more hits off of the Red Sox for the rest of the game, and meanwhile the Red Sox struck back. A fifth-inning triple by Jed Lowrie led to one run, and a pair of leadoff singles led to another despite some bad at bats from David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez along with a bad bounce that left Dustin Pedroia out at the plate when he tried to score on a wild pitch.

Then, in the seventh, the Red Sox finally took the lead. Jed Lowrie again initiated the rally--this time with a double to right--and came home on another double by Marco Scutaro. One out later, and it was Jason Varitek going up the middle with a ground ball to break the tie and put the Red Sox on top...

...For all of one inning. John Lackey came back out for the seventh, gave up one baserunner, and was instantly lifted for Alfredo Aceves. The reliever gave up second base on a wild pitch, and then allowed a sacrifice fly to bring in the tying run just three at bats after the Sox had finally taken the lead.

The teams would battle back and forth into extra innings, with Jonathan Papelbon striking out Austin Romine with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to keep the Sox alive. From there, the closer would pitch two more strong innings, leaving an impressive mark on the game that was nearly matched by Franklin Morales, who threw two of his own.

The Yankees had matched the Sox step-for-step until the fourteenth, but finally broke through against Scott Proctor. A one-out single for Darnell McDonald and walk for Marco Scutaro set the Sox up with a pair of baserunners for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. While the catcher's long fly ball did not prove deep enough to get past Curtis Granderson, the Yankees would not get past Jacoby Ellsbury. Already with a pair of homers in the first half of the doubleheader, Ellsbury got ahead in the count 1-0, and then took a big swing at a low fastball. The bat made a resounding crack, and the ball left the park, giving the Sox a commanding lead which Felix Doubront would not relinquish in the bottom half of the frame. After fourteen innings, the Red Sox won.

 

Three For The Road

One Up, Three To Go

The Red Sox have managed to hold onto their one game lead over the Rays in the wild card, which means they now only have to play as well as Tampa Bay over the last three games to stay out of a one-game playoff. While the bullpen is shot after tonight, the Sox will have Josh Beckett on the mound for Monday's game against Baltimore, followed up by Erik Bedard and--presumably if necessary--Jon Lester. That one game is hugely significant.

 

MVP

Jacoby Ellsbury's game winner is the type of hit that wins an MVP award. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the center fielder is having a truly phenomenal year to begin with, but a three-homer day (albeit in two games) capped off by a game-winner that could prove the difference between the postseason and early October golf? Nothing sways voters better than that.

 

More Big Relief

John Lackey was surprisingly decent in his outing after the disastrous first, but it's the bullpen that deserves special recognition tonight. Eight scoreless innings of work highlighted by the dominating performance of Jonathan Papelbon (who may well have pitched himself into a new contract), all combining to keep the Red Sox alive just long enough. It was gutsy work from a group used to pitching primarily garbage innings.

 

Red Sox MVP -- Jacoby Ellsbury

Of the game, of the team, and perhaps of the league.

 

Up Next -- Monday, 7:05 p.m. | Josh Beckett (13-6, 2.70 ERA) vs. Tommy Hunter (4-4, 4.86 ERA)

Josh Beckett wasn't exactly dominant in his return to the mound last time against the Orioles, but he was certainly looking it early on. The Sox will need a top-notch start from Beckett, too, with a gassed bullpen waiting in the wings and the Tampa Bay Rays pitching James Shields against Hector Noesi.